In July 2014, the Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security and the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) invited the Annie E. Casey Foundation (“Casey”) to conduct an assessment of Virginia’s juvenile justice system with a particular focus on the use and performance of DJJ’s juvenile correctional centers (JCCs). While the first phase of the assessment was completed in early 2015, the work with Casey has been ongoing, primarily in the form of technical assistance across the agency, including further targeted assessments of DJJ’s work.
Based on the assessments, national research, and considerable staff and stakeholder input, DJJ is transforming the work of the agency to reflect what we have learned. Many of the changes we are making are based on evidence and research on what best promotes success and reduces recidivism rates among court-involved youth. We also recognize that to be successful we must focus not only on the positive development of the young people in our system, but also the positive development and sustainability of the staff who serve them. Accordingly, we must strive in all of the work we do to meet the needs of our youth and staff in the following four areas:
The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice protects the public by preparing
court-involved youth to be successful citizens.
Youth and staff need to feel safe in their environment and need a sense of physical and emotional well-being.
Youth and staff need to feel connected to supportive and caring adults, whether they are family, staff, or coworkers.
Youth and staff need to have goals to strive toward, skills to hone, and a sense that they have a valuable role to play in the lives of people and the community around them.
Youth need to perceive their environment and interactions as fair and transparent. They need to be held accountable in a manner proportionate to their offense and offense history, and similar to other youth in their situation. Staff need to feel that they are treated fairly, compensated adequately, and supported in their efforts to meet the expectations of the department.
To reach our goals for both youth and staff, we have developed an agency transformation plan. The plan consists of three core operational strategies as well as a strategy dedicated to sustaining, maintaining, and evaluating our reforms and progress. These strategies will continue to guide the department toward fulfilling our mission of protecting the public by preparing court-involved youth to be successful citizens and members of their communities.
Safely reduce the use of state-operated JCCs by reforming probation practices, utilizing data and research to modify length of stay policies, and developing successful alternative placements to JCCs.
Expand, improve, and strengthen the services and supports provided to youth in custody both during their commitment and upon their return home.
Provide youth across Virginia with opportunities for rehabilitation in the least restrictive setting by replacing large, old JCCs with a statewide continuum of evidence-based services, alternative placements, and new smaller therapeutic correctional settings.
Sustain DJJ Transformation by maintaining safe, healthy, inclusive work places; continuing to recruit, retain, and develop a team of highly skilled and motivated staff; and aligning our procedures, policies, and resources to support the team in meeting the of transformation.